Tuesday, June 7, 2011

The SHARE Blog has moved

As part of launching our new website, our blog has moved. Now you can our latest updates from El Salvador and SHARE Counterparts at: www.share-elsalvador.org/blog

Have a look today to see what else is new at SHARE. We'll see you there! (And don’t forget to change your bookmark).

SHARE launches new website!

SHARE El Salvador is pleased to announce that we have just launched our new website! Besides an exciting new look, the new site makes it easier for you to read project updates, interviews, and action alerts. Take a look now at www.share-elsalvador.org!

Help us out by sharing the website with your friends and telling us what you think!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Threats Continue at Radio Victoria: Please Show Your Solidarity!

"Since the early 1990s, Radio Victoria has provided a voice for the residents of the northern hills of El Salvador. Founded in the aftermath of the nation's bloody civil war, today Radio Victoria transmits daily local and international news and other programs to communities so poor they often lack telephone and mail services.

The journalists who run the station are mostly 16 to 24 year-olds who grew up in Honduran refugee camps and returned to the area with their families as the civil war raged around them.

And now, someone wants them dead."

Threats to members of the Radio Victoria continue:
1) "extermination > look oscar we aren't kidding shut up this radio or you also die you dog”
1) "extermination > look pablo we are watching you better than your police we are close to you where you go the cameras in the radio will not save anyone get out or what" 
1) " exrerminio > griga (exterminio > gringa???) today yes we have to act with the people in your radio now it is too much manuel pablo oscar and maricela are to be assassinated you should leave... "

PLEASE support the radio by sending your messages of support—emails in Spanish and especially voice recordings they can play on the radio.  The authorities and people responsible need to continue to hear that the international community is paying attention and in solidarity with the Radio.  As Cristina Starr at the Radio says: “We are only little people and we keep getting these nasty things and it scares us and upsets us and wears us down psychologically, so all forms of support are helpful, we are together here, we are in touch with each other, supporting each other and we feel all your support surrounding us too.”

You can also sign the change.org petition: Investigate Death Threats against El Salvador Journalists.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

El Salvador Sees Epidemic of Violence Against Women

This article written by Hannah Stone, talks about femicide in El Salvador and mentions SHARE Counterpart ORMUSA.

A rise in brutal killings of women, known as “femicides,” in El Salvador can be blamed on various factors, from gender inequality to organized crime to a society hollowed out by gang culture, features common to many parts of Central America

Non-governmental organization Salvadoran Women for Peace (Organizacion de Mujeres Salvadoreñas por la Paz - ORMUSA), which tracks violence against women, reported that, according to police statistics, there were 160 such murders committed in the country in the first three months of the year. This would put the country on track for a record 640 such killings in 2011 - higher than any year since the organization began to track the issue in 1999.

Human rights organizations in Latin America use the word “femicide” to refer to the murders of women who are killed because of their gender. Murders defined in this way typically involve sexual violence, mutilation, and torture, with the mangled bodies of victims often left in public places.

El Salvador has one of the highest murder rates in the world, with almost 70 per 100,000 people. This is mostly due to soaring gang violence, with the country an increasingly important transit location for drugs being trafficked into the U.S., and the local “maras” or gangs fighting over the business. Sexualized killings of women make up a relatively minor proportion of the many violent deaths -- of some 4,000 murders the police registered in 2010, 580 were identified as femicides.

Read more

Friday, May 13, 2011

Urgent Action for Radio Victoria: Change.org Petition!

Change.org recently created an online petition that makes it easy to take action to demand an Investigation of Death Threats Against Radio Victoria Journalists in El Salvador (click here) and spread the word

Change.org published the following article on Tuesday May, 10th

El Salvador: Protect Independent Radio from Death Threats

by Antonio Ramirez · May 10, 2011

Since the early 1990s, Radio Victoria has provided a voice for the residents of the northern hills of El Salvador. Founded in the aftermath of the nation's bloody civil war, today Radio Victoria transmits daily local and international news and other programs to communities so poor they often lack telephone and mail services.
The journalists who run the station are mostly 16 to 24 year-olds who grew up in Hondruan refugee camps and returned to the area with their families as the civil war raged around them.
And now, someone wants them dead.
Last month, Radio Victoria's workers began receiving a wave of death threats from a shadowy group reminiscent of the macabre rightwing "death squads" active during the civil war.

Monday, May 9, 2011

ACTION ALERT! Support Radio Victoria


Action Alert! Support Radio Victoria

On May 3rd, World Press Freedom Day, Radio Victoria in Cabañas, once again denounced death threats against their workers.

During the early hours of Saturday April 30th a note was slipped under Radio Victoria´s front entrance naming 3 workers  and threatening their lives if they did not leave the Radio by Wednesday May 4th.

On May 2nd during the evening 2 radio journalists received text messages on their cell phones threatening them in different ways including saying that one of the workers´ 3 year old daughter would be the one to pay if they did not change the tone of the radio.

On May 4th, new threats were sent to two of the radio workers. Radio Victoria needs your help and solidarity.  Here is who you can contact to ask for an exhaustive investigation, for results of the investigations, for full protection for ALL workers at Radio Victoria, for guarantees of freedom of the press y freedom of expression, for democratic and independent media and whatever else you want to say.


Send an email to the Attorney General Romeo Barahona to demand a full investigation and protection for our workers.  The Attorney General of the Republic is the only one who can decide what gets investigated and he is not taking us seriously.  Please send an email to his assistant at: hector.burgos@fgr.gob.sv

If you speak Spanish, you could also call Salvadoran Attorney General Romeo Barahona at 011-503-2260-6350 and make your voice heard.

Send an email to David Morales, Director of Human Rights at the Ministry of Foreign Relations to demand specialized police protection for those being threatened: dmorales@rree.gob.sv

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

The Struggle Against Climate Change in El Corozal

This update was originally published in our eNewsletter on Earth Day 2011.

The small 60 family community of El Corozal, where SHARE counterpart REDES has been working since 2006, is so remote and tucked away into the hills outside of Berlin, Usulután, that they still do not receive running water or electricity in the community. The school only goes up to fifth grade and with only two teachers and one principal who is also teaching classes, there are two grades of students being taught by one teacher at the same time. Given the distance to the middle school in Berlin, very few students are able to continue studying after the fifth grade. In fact, when the mayor’s office of Berlin offered to train someone from the community as a health promoter with the condition that it be someone with a high school degree, the community realized, upon searching for an eligible person, that nobody in the community had obtained a high school degree.

Radio Victoria Press Release

Dear SHARE family,

Once again, the Radio Victoria in Victoria, Cabañas is receiving death threats.  Threats against many of the young people at this community radio have been going on all year, along with threats to burn down the radio.  Numerous anti-mining activists have already lost their lives and many other leaders in this movement have been threatened or attempts have been made on their lives. 

Please stay posted for ways to stand in solidarity with these inspiring, dedicate young people at the Radio Victoria. 

In solidarity,


Today, May 3rd, is World Press Freedom Day and on this day Radio Victoria is again denouncing death threats against their workers. 
During the early hours of Saturday April 30th a note was slipped under Radio Victoria´s front entrance naming 3 workers  and threatening their lives if they did not leave the Radio by Wednesday May 4th.
On May 2nd during the evening 2 radio journalists received text messages on their cell phones threatening them in different ways including saying that one of the workers´ 3 year old daughter would be the one to pay if they did not change the tone of the radio.
Tomorrow May 4th Radio Victoria and ADES, Santa Marta´s Social and Economic Development Association, will hold a press conference in front of El Salvador´s Attorney General´s office denouncing the total lack of results from investigations into who are the intellectual and material authors of these continuous threats.

We will send out more information soon on how you all can support the Radio and other human rights defenders in El Salvador.

Thank you for your attention and support.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

May 1st: Change Through Mobilized Communities!

Excerpt from the Pagina de Maiz, a weekly publication put out by SHARE counterpart, Equipo Maiz.

This May 1, 2011, workers, student organizations, farmers, women, and entire communities will come together to mobilize with workers from all around the world in unity for political change to end capitalist exploitation and imperialist domination.

The reality of today is that capitalism is in an economic crisis, and this crisis is causing nations to turn against one another for vital resources such as gas and water.

This May 1st will be the 3rd year in a row that the people of El Salvador will be able to march freely away from the corrupt government of ARENA. Yet they are still battling for historic demands on increased minimum wages, educational rights, healthcare, and more. 

Mobilized communities have realized that they cannot simply "sit and wait" for changes to happen. With FMLN they must make these changes happen. They've realized they need to push for more communities, factory workers, wealthy business owners, and the like in order to have a bigger voice in political changes and policies. 

The freedom of the working class will not be obtained by anyone but the working class! They must continue their struggle for political rights! To all the workers and organized communities fighting for their rights as people, we thank you for your continued dedication!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Electoral Reform: Multi-Party City Councils

As part of a number of electoral reforms being proposed by civil society, one that stands out, especially as Legislative and Mayoral elections approach, is the proposal to accept multi-party City Councils.

Local election results 2009
Currently, El Salvador is the only country in Latin America that functions on simple majority elections for city councils. That means that when one party wins the local elections and takes the mayors office, every person on the City Council comes from that political party. Whereas, in most other countries in Latin America, the City Council is made up of representatives from different parties depending on how well they were represented in recent elections.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

More Great 2010 Delegation Quotes!

Churchwomen Delegation
"The delegation experience challenges me to an even greater commitment to the advocacy education work I do.  I'm greatly encouraged by the efforts of SHARE with women's empowerment and leadership for young women.  This is absolutely necessary for peace in our world."

"I appreciated SHARE not spoon feeding data to us, but rather letting individuals learn from the conversations, the travel, and reflections shared."

"Once again my eyes and heart have been opened to the suffering that has been felt by the Salvadorans.  Once again I am impressed with their hope and energy.  I was very touched by the stark poverty of Llano Grande, but once again was moved by their hope."

Cretin Derham Hall
“I learned a lot in El Salvador and a lot about myself. I wish I could put it into words, but there are no words powerful enough to explain everything.”

"I learned that as a U.S. citizen, we have an impact on the countries of the world. It is our responsibility to educate ourselves so we can use our knowledge to help the world."

“Through this experience, I've been shown that the world has many issues and you can never be done learning about and questioning them. That is the only way to find solutions.”

I have learned more about the history and current political and economic structure existing in El Salvador. I learned more about the interconnection between El Salvador, the U.S., and other countries. I learned a simple way of life can be an effective and happy way of life. One of the most important lessons I learned is knowledge is power and one of the most important ways to help the poor and vulnerable. I also learned a lot about CAFTA"

St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish
 “I learned so much: the history of El Salvador, the current issues that are affecting the country, more of the Spanish language, and what it really means to be a community.”

“I think the advocacy was well done – because otherwise the delegation would just be a “show and tell” without allowing groups to take back what they've learned and carry out their sistering relationship.”

“Learned of the challenge many people face in their everyday lives. The things we take for granted can not be afforded, like a high school education, clean water, food, medicine.”

“New perspective on faith and what it means to be a Catholic as described by Father Rutilio Grande and Mons. Romero.”

Friday, April 8, 2011

Thank you Marina!

Thank you Marina for many years working with SHARE.

Marina Peña, SHARE’s El Salvador Field Office Director recently decided to leave SHARE in order to accept a position working as an advisor to the Salvadoran Ambassador in Nicaragua.  Marina’s dedication, enthusiasm, and expertise will be greatly missed at SHARE. 

For over 11 years, we enjoyed Marina’s leadership in accompanying partner communities as they moved from war to reconstruction.  The success of the Mujeras Ganaderas, the cooperative of cattle women in the Bajo Lempa, is one example of Marina’s ability to encourage and empower a marginalized group of women. She guided through the process of forming their own women’s cooperative and walked with them until they secured their legal status. Today they are a thriving, successful, and respected women’s organization.

Marina was a champion in supporting the struggle of women and human rights. Last November, with the support of SHARE, a Salvadoran women’s organization passed landmark legislation to protect women from violence. The Romero Coalition, another advocacy effort that Marina championed, was instrumental in pressing Salvadoran President Mauricio Funes to ask for pardon on behalf of the Salvadoran government for violations committed during the war at the 30th anniversary commemoration of Archbishop Oscar Romero. 

We are sure Marina will do a superb job working with the Salvadoran community in Nicaragua.
We want to say thank you Marina for her leadership and for her many years advancing the mission of SHARE.  We wish her success and hope she will continue to be part of the SHARE family even while she is in Nicaragua.

Un fuerte abrazo and muchas gracias for your love and dedication, Marina!
Jose Artiga
Executive Director

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Top Ten 2010 Delegate Quotes

  • Instead of just hearing about poverty and peoples' struggles, we lived it and saw first hand in a way that will affect me forever. SHARE's incorporation of advocacy issues was truly remarkable and inspiring to me. I plan on initiating events and fundraisers on campus to create awareness in the U.S. about issues in El Salvador.” 
    Eastern Michigan University

  • "I can now understand how big on an impact the policies of the USA have on the rest of the world. Even though the American people may not realize their power, they are responsible for their actions." 
    Cretin Derham Hall

  • "The past week has driven home the need to understand, to a greater degree, the global impact of my way of life. Then change those areas that are harmful to the global community." 
    Churchwomen Delegation

  • We all need to open our eyes and hearts to listen to our brothers and sisters all over the world. Each one of our brothers and sisters has a great story to tell.”
    St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish

  • "I have learned so much about the civil war and current economy in El Salvador. I have also learned about the USA's involvement in the war and what advocacy organizations are doing to help the people of El Salvador today. More than anything I have learned about the strength and kindness of the Salvadoran people." 
    Cretin Derham Hall

  • "The question should be what didn't move or touch me; every minute was jam-packed--so informative, so motivating, so inspirational. Each leader offered so much in knowledge, joy and giving. Each were very sensitive to the needs and to requests. Never has there been been such giving leadership. The delegates themselves were so inspiring, each bringing and sharing a unique gift." Churchwomen Delegation

  • I realize now that it is every person's duty as a human being to help all other human beings, no matter what their circumstance. I plan to tell stories of the people I met, making sure that these people are not forgotten.” Eastern Michigan University

  • I have learned how welcoming and loving one community can be and that love is unconditional. I've learned that every name and face has a story. It is important to give dignity to every person.” 
    Cretin Derham Hall

  • I went in with an open mind and I feel like I learned more in a week here than in a semester at school.” 
    Georgetown University

  • "I always appreciate having my vision and perspective broadened -- as it was during this trip. With so many Salvadoran immigrants in the US, I appreciate the insights into the pain of their choice to leave El Salvador and the vast challenges for those who stay behind or return." 
    Churchwomen Delegation

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Women's Rights in the Workplace

Salvadoran Women working in a factory

On March 30th, the International Labor Organization presented their report on Legislation Regarding Women's Work Rights in Central America and the Dominican Republic. The report revealed that the most common types of labor violations in the workplace for women are in regards to maternity and sexual harrasment.

International Labor Organization Representative, Maria Jose Chamorro, presented the report to the audience. Some interesting facts about El Salvador labor laws:
  • El Salvador ratified the International Agreement on Work Dicrimination in 1995, and the International Agreement on Equal Pay in 2000, while the rest of the Central American countries had ratified those agreements in the 1950's and 1960's.
  • Article 3 of the Salvadoran constitution states that "All persons are equal under the law. To have access to civil rights there could be no restrictions based on nationality, race, sex or religion."
  • Both the Convention for the Elimination of All forms of Violance Against Women and the Inter-American Convention to Prevent, Sanction and Erradicate Violance Against Women have been ratified by the Salvadoran government.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Remembering María Julia: Defender of Human Rights in El Salvador

Our struggle to exercise these rights here in El Salvador continues, we will keep searching for this truth and justice in El Salvador's courts. I don't know when, but one day truth and justice will flourish in our country for the victims who abandoned this utopia with their blood.”
  - Dr. María Julia Hernández

Dr. María Julia Hernandez, long-time director of Tutela Legal, The Salvadoran Archdiocese's human rights office, and defender of the victims of horrific human rights violations, died March 30th four years ago. 

SHARE worked with María Julia, Tutela Legal, and the Archdiocese on many human rights initiatives over the years, including human rights campaigns during the war, coordination with the movement of refugees repopulating communities in the late 1980s, and working on the initial design for a memorial wall dedicated to the civilian victims of the war. SHARE brought María Julia on tour in the U.S. to promote and fundraise for the construction of the memorial wall. Says SHARE Executive Director José Artiga, “María Julia is one of our most prominent women leaders in El Salvador. She worked closely with all the Archbishops, and was a defender of human rights who promoted denouncements, justice, and reparations.”

In honor of María Julia Hernández, Wednesday March 30th 2011 members of Tutela Legal organized a mass and forum in the Crypt of the National Cathedral, where María Julia, Archbishop Oscar Romero, and a number of other priests and religious persons are buried. María Julia is one of the only women buried in the Crypt. A group of forty people gathered to commemorate her life, including members of COMADRES, the Committee of the Mothers of the Disappeared, and many others who knew her. In the spirit of María Julia, during the opening prayer, one of the priests proclaimed, “We are gathered here for the dignity of all, no matter their social class.”
Decorating María Julia's tomb
with flowers

Following the mass, Luis Morales and Dr. Aceda Díaz shared reflections about María Julia's personality, work, and legacy. María Julia first became involved in working for human rights after meeting Archbishop Romero in 1977 at a gathering of student groups. Archbishop Romero called on the students to aid the victims of disappearance and genocide, and María Julia decided to accompany him in this work. She took on a preferential option for the victims, committing the rest of her life to defending human rights.

In 1983, María Julia took leadership of the newly formed Tutela Legal. She and her team worked tirelessly and systematically to investigate, record, and denounce massacres, murders, disappearances, and other human rights violations, and to protect victims. While these atrocities stopped happening systematically with the end of the war, they remained covered by silence, impunity, and the amnesty law. María Julia continued to work for the truth to be known and acknowledged. Together with Tiberio Arnoldo Romero, brother of Archbishop Oscar Romero, she brought the case of Archbishop Romero's assassination to the Inter-American Human Rights Commission. She also played an instrumental role in coordinating the exhumations of the El Mozote Massacre, bringing irrefutable evidence to light. She helped facilitate the planning and construction of the Monument to Truth and Memory as well, a memorial wall with the names of nearly 30,000 civilian victims killed or disappeared during the war.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Congratulations Pro Busqueda: Government Publicy Recognizes Children Disappeared During the Armed Conflict

A seemingly endless line of children, youth, and the occasional adult gathered outside the Feria Internacional in San Salvador the morning of March 29th, 2011. Everyone trickled through the gates one by one and rushed toward a huge ampitheatre decorated with kites and crawling with people for the Day of the Children Disappeared During the Armed Conflict. While the Salvadoran Legislative Assembly first named March 29th the Day of the Children Disappeared During the Armed Conflict in 2007, this Tuesday marked the first time the Salvadoran government participated in the celebration, publicly acknowledging the many children who suffered forced disappearance and separation from their families during the armed conflict. Pro Busqueda coordinated this exciting historic commemorative event together with the Salvadoran Secretariat of Social Inclusion, lead by First Lady Vanda Pignato. 

Probusqueda, a Salvadoran non-profit organization dedicated to searching for those disappeared as children during the armed conflict, has spearheaded the fight for truth, justice, and reparations for disappeared children and their families. After seventeen years advocating for families of the disappeared and working with many individuals who were disappeared, for Pro Busqueda to finally hear the government's acknowledgement of responsibility for the many children forcibly taken from their families during the war marked a historical moment. Father Jon Cortina, S.J. started Pro Busqueda together with families from the community of Guarjila shortly after the end of the war. Families have reported over nine hundred cases of disappeared children to the staff of Pro Busqueda, who have found over three hundred people, and continue to search for more than five hundred. Pro Busqueda brought a number of young people who were disappeared and have since been found to the commemoration on Tuesday.

Members of Pro Busqueda opened the event reminding everyone that it was a morning to pause and remember the those children torn from their homes, to share the search so many families and individuals have walked, and through this moment of truth step toward justice and begin to build sanity and reconciliation for El Salvador. They then brought the crowd together chanting “No los olvidamos,” We do not forget them. School groups, individuals, and organizations from all fourteen departments of El Salvador added their voices.

Much of the crowd surged to their feet at the announcement of President Mauricio Funes' entrance. As Funes slowly descended the main staircase with his wife at his side and a trail of dignitaries, members of Pro Busqueda, and victims of forced disappearance behind him, he shook the hand of each of the kids and young adults lined up alongside the stairs, a wide grin lighting his face. Once Presidente Funes and his wife took their seats on the stage, the official commemorative act began. The act included the introduction of a postage stamp for the Day of Children Disappeared During the Armed Conflict, featuring a child's footprints, prizes awarded to university students who wrote essays about disappeared children, and speeches by Ester Alvarenga, Coordinator of Probusqueda, and President Funes. As icing on the cake, those gathered had the pleasure of listening to internationally renowned singer/song-writer Julieta Venegas perform following the commemorative act. 

Thursday, March 24, 2011

In the Words of Romero...

On all of our delegations that travel to El Salvador, we take the time to visit the Divina Providencia, run by the Carmelite nuns, and also the place where Oscar Romero lived and died. In a recent visit to the small house where Romero lived, one of the sisters in talking about Romero's homilies said: "People close to Monseñor used to say: "Be careful with what you say in your homilies!" And Monseñor would respond by saying that in preparing his homilies, he would write down everything that he was going to say, but as soon as he stood up there in front of all the people and the words starting coming out, it was different than what he had prepared. That to say that he felt that it was a power greater than him that was speaking." Here are some of those prophetic words:

"We have never preached violence, except the violence of love, which left Christ nailed to a cross, the violcen that we must each do to ourselves to overcome our selfishness and such cruel inequalities among us. The violence we preach is not the violence of the sword, the violence of hatred. It is the violence of love, of brotherhood, the violence that wills to beat weapons into sickles for work."

"I will not tire of declaring that if we really want an effective end to violence we must remove the violence that lies at the root of all violence: structural violence, social injustice, exclusion of citizens form the management of the country, repression. All this is what constitutes the primal cause, from which the rest flows naturally."

"This is the fundamental thought of my preaching: Nothing is so important to me as human life. Taking life is something so serious, so grave-- more than the violation of any other human right-- because such bloodshed only negates love, awakens new hatreds, makes reconciliation and peace impossible."

"There is one rule by which to judge if God is near us or is far away-- the rule that God's word is giving us today: everyone concerned for the hungry, the naked, the poor, for those who have vanished in police custody, for the tortured, for prisoners, for all flesh that suffers, has God close at hand."

"What good are beautiful highways and airports, beautiful buildings full of spacious apartments, if they are only put together with the blood of the poor, who are not going to enjoy them?"

"Peoples are free to choose the political system they want but not free to do whatever they feel like. They will have to be judged by God's justice in the political or social system they choose. God is the judge of all social systems. Neither the gospel or the church can be monopolized by any political or social movement."

"El Salvador's liberation need not mean so much bloodshed; there is still time. If we all bring to bear the goodwill to renounce material things and seek those of divine worth, we can certainly find the way. Naturally, there must be the courage to yield in regard to what has become an untouchable institution, one at the base of all forms of violence: institutionalized violence, the country's injustice."

Commemorating Father Rutilio Grande

Saturday March 12th marked the 34th anniversary of Father Rutilio Grande's martyrdom. A priest from El Paisnal, Rutilio Grande spoke against the injustices at the hands of an oppressive government, and dedicated his life's work to organizing the impoverished, marginalized rural farmers of El Salvador as they demanded respect for their rights. Members of the army shot him to death along with two other people, in 1977 on his way to give mass. Community members and social organizations continue to commemorate his life and death every year to hold up his example of commitment to the people and communities, and of speaking out for justice as a model for youth, men, women, and children to follow today, in the midst of continued inequality.

While El Salvador is no longer at war, economic wealth and job opportunities remain concentrated in the hands of a few. A culture of violence continues, manifesting itself in one of the highest murder rates on the continent. In the midst of these and other challenges,  it is essential to build an identity Salvadorans are proud of, and remember people who touched and transformed the lives of many to believe in themselves and to work for love and justice.

This year over 800 people gathered in Aguilares to commemorate Father Grande, in an event coordinated by UCRES and the local government. Most people came from neighboring communities, though some came from other areas of El Salvador, and even a few from other countries.  From Aguilares, everyone joined in walking to The Three Crosses, the monument constructed in memory of Father Rutilio Grande, Nelson Rutilio Lemus (16), and Manuel Solórzano (72), at the site they were gunned down at on March 12, 1977. Today a paved road surrounded by dusty, tranquil looking fields runs past the monument.

Perspectives on Obama's Visit to El Salvador

For two days this week, El Salvador was in the world media spotlight when US President Obama visited. Various news outlets did a wonderful job highlighting a variety of important, and often controversial, issues regarding Obama’s visit and US-ES relations more generally. Here is a selection of those thought-provoking perspectives in their own words:

A Missed Opportunity at Romero's Tomb
For Maryknoll Fr. Roy Bourgeois, the visit was at best a missed opportunity. His organization, SOA Watch, revealed that Romero’s killers were trained at the U.S. Army School of the Americas, now named the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC).
"I and many other human rights activists were hopeful," he said, that Obama would acknowledge "that Romero and thousands of others were killed, tortured and disappeared by graduates of this school."
"Obama didn’t even acknowledge, let alone apologize for, the U.S. role in El Salvador," Bourgeois said.
Read more at: http://ncronline.org/news/obama-romeros-grave-missed-opportunity

US Funds for Security Initiatives: Human Rights and Sovereignty?
During his visit to El Salvador, President Obama announced $200 million to finance “ security and anti-narco trafficking in Central America at a joint press conference held on Tuesday, March 22nd with his Salvadoran homologue, President Funes. Among other issues, there are serious human rights concerns:

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Dear Mr President: Please Renegotiate CAFTA

Dear President Obama:

On your upcoming trip to Latin America, we ask that you state your support for renegotiation of the Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) and for El Salvador’s request to have dismissed a pending CAFTA investor-state arbitration suit challenging El Salvador’s environmental and safety policies relating to metals mining concessions.

Letters From El Salvador: Final day in Huisisilapa

The next day we awoke to the realization that we were about to
encounter an extremely enthusiastic and talented group of soccer players. A game was scheduled for 9:30 am on the cancha, or field, seemingly the hottest place in the entire
community. A team of Northwest Students (and a few guest players) and a
team of Huisisilapan community members were formed, and the game began,
with many excited spectators. Numerous people, from both sides, opted not to
play, and sat, talking and mingling, in the shade next to the field.
This was preferable, as each time a player would come off the field,
both the sunburn, and sweat soaked clothing was extremely apparent.
However, by some miracle, or by the kindness on behalf of the
Huisisilapan team, the Northwest School prevailed, winning by one goal.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Members of Congress call on Obama to support environmental protection and trade reform in El Salvador

A press release from CISPES regarding Obama's stay in El Salvador.

Members of Congress, policy experts call on President Obama 

to support environmental protection and trade reform in El Salvador

Washington, D.C. & San Salvador - As President Obama travels to El Salvador, leaders in Congress and national policy organizations are calling on him to support the Salvadoran government in protecting the country’s environmental and social rights rather than succumbing to pressure from multinational mining corporations.

Nineteen House Democrats and over 140 environmental, religious, and human rights organizations signed letters to the President asking him to amend investment rules in U.S. trade policy, to prevent corporations from challenging other countries’ regulations through private arbitration.  The letters also ask Obama to denounce a $100 million lawsuit by a Canadian mining company, Pacific Rim, against the government of El Salvador for allegedly violating the Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA).

“I urge President Obama to offer support for El Salvador’s legitimate right to develop policies protecting human rights and the environment,” said Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), who co-sponsored the congressional letter.  “The U.S. should applaud El Salvador’s commitment to promoting the health and well-being of its citizens, and the protection of the environment.  Instead, our trade policies enable North American mining companies to sue the Salvadoran government for upholding its legitimate right to protect its air, water, and soil.  This is unacceptable; I’m grateful to my colleagues for joining me in calling on the President to raise this issue during his upcoming visit to El Salvador.”

Social Movement Presents Demands to Obama

Protest in front of the Salvador del Mundo monument
The MPR-12 Movement along with a number of other groups in the social movement held a march this morning to present their demands to President Obama during his visit to El Salvador.  Those demands include:

-Close the U.S. military bases in Central America
-Close the ILEA (U.S. run police training academy in El Salvador)
-Revoke CAFTA
-Respect the rights of immigrants
-Freedom for the 5 Cuban political prisoners in the United States
-Not allow the reintegration of the Coup Government in Honduras into the OAS
-Stop the military agression in Libya

Some photos and quotes from the march:

We are here as the MPR-12 Movement to denouce the Free Trade Agreement, and also so that people know how militarized this whole region is. Obama said that he would demilitarize the region and instead he has increased military presence here, we are here so that people know that.
-Carmen from the Dimas Rodriguez Community in El Paisnal

Repeal CAFTA

For us it is a contradiction that the leftist government here is being so servile to the U.S. government when we still have many great challenges like the Free Trade Agreement that allows North American mining companies to come in and exploit El Salvador. We think that the Free Trade Agreement should be revoked because it has made the situation for farmers in the country much worse.
-Guiselle, from the UST (United Workers Union)

Respect for immigrant rights!!!
One of the reasons that we are here is to ask Obama to respect the rights of immigrants living in the United States. We think that the Salvadorans living in the United States for many years have the right to be there so that they can continue to support their family members. We have the right to be here to peacefully protest since El Salvador is a democracy that allows for these type of gatherings.

Stop Bombing Libya!
We think that it is a disgrace that while Obama is visiting Central America, Libya is currently being bombed....These photos that we have here with us are of our martyrs in Honduras. Many of them were disappeared and killed during the coup in Honduras. They were our friends and companians and that is why we remember them.
-Honduran protester
Hondurans killed in the conflict following the 2009 coup

Monday, March 21, 2011

Letter From El Salvador: Day Three- Return to Huisisilapa

During the delegation, Northwest students and teachers participated in two one-night homestays in the community of Huisisilapa. Families returning from refugee camps in Honduras in 1991 founded the community, starting with a swath of overgrown land, and the few belongings they had brought with them. In the initial years, community members taught students to read under the trees. Today Huisisilapa has elementary school all the way through high school, a dream few rural communities have realized. This next excerpt describes returning to Huisisilapa for the second homestay.  
The next day we arrived earlier than usual, around 9:30 am, after a decent distance traveled to the soundtrack of “The Sound of Music”. We got off the short bus, throats hoarse from a good group sing-a-long, and dispersed to go to our various home stays. That morning the plan was to participate in the Polaroid photography project, in which each family, as well as those who were staying there, had their picture taken. Then each person photographed was asked to attach their image to a piece of paper and write about their personal hopes and dreams, as a form of intercultural and personal exchange within the household. For this morning activity, however, we were only taking the images.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

First Success Against Commerce Group!

Great news everyone! The ICSID (International Center for the Settlement of Investment Disputes) has discarded one of the suits filed against El Salvador by Commerce Group! This is a small but important success for the government and people of El Salvador in keeping mining and its negative health and environmental effects out of its country. We want to send a huge thank you to all of those who called, sent letters, e-mails, and faxes to the Commerce Group- you have helped the Salvadoran people win one part of the battle, but it still not over! The urgency against other mining companies like Pacific Rim continues! Please continue your support as we continue our support of the Salvador people against mining.

For more information see the Decision here

Letter From El Salvador: Day Two- Sihua Batucada

In the afternoon of the 26th, Northwest students and teachers met with an empowered group of young women receives trainings in sexual and reproductive health from the Institute of the Woman, IMU. These young women have also formed their own drum band, the Sihua Batucada. SHARE supports these women with partial high school scholarships.

After a full morning of exchange, we continued to Suchitoto,
where we shared a particularly good lunch with a group of young
Salvadoran women who, not only go from town to town talking about sexual
and reproductive rights in the face of criticism, but also have their
own drum and dance group called Sihua Batucada. We got to know a little
bit about them through intermingling between chewing at the lunch table,
but even more so when they presented their cause through a presentation.
This was a particularly interesting meeting, primarily because El
Salvador is a notoriously religious country; the country’s name means
“The Savior”, or Jesus Christ.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Letter from El Salvdor: Day One- Scholarship Youth Assembly

      February 20th to March 4th, twenty-four high school juniors and seniors along with five teachers from the Northwest School in Seattle Washington joined SHARE for a thirteen-day delegation. The Northwest School has strong roots in social justice, and has been in partnership with SHARE and our sister organization UCRES for several years now. For the past two weeks, Northwest students had the opportunity to interact with Salvadorans their age who are active leaders in their communities, to meet with members of various organizations working towards justice in many areas, to visit the community of Huisisilapa and stay with families, and to travel to Cabañas to learn the latest in the struggle against mining, amongst other things. During the delegation, the teachers wrote home to the students' parents every couple of nights to share events and emotions. One night, one of the students wrote the letter home. Over the next few days we will share excerpts of her letter.

For the first excerpt, on February 26th, the delegation spent the morning with high school and college students who SHARE and sistering groups like Northwest support in their studies and leadership development lead by UCRES, one of SHARE's counterparts.

Amicus Brief: Environmental and Human Rights Impacts of Mining

Dear SHARE community,

We continue our support of the anti-mining groups in El Salvador. Many of our delegations have witnessed first hand the health risks, human rights violations, and environmental impacts that mining can cause. We realize the importance this issue has to our base of supporters and would like to share with you all what could be a very helpful case against mining in El Salvador.
(If you would like to read this and other articles in Spanish, please visit our Spanish Blog)

Amicus Brief Highlights the Environmental and Human Rights Impacts of Mining in $77 Million Investment Arbitration Case

Washington, DC: On March 2, 2011, the Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL), on behalf of civil society organizations of the Mesa Nacional Frente a la Minería Metálica (Mesa), filed an amicus curiae brief in the Pac Rim Cayman LLC v. Republic of El Salvador case, currently being heard at the International Center for the Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID). The Mesa is a coalition of human rights and environmental organizations working to ban metals mining in El Salvador.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Romero Justice Week 2011

Dear friends,

As February comes to a close and we enter into March, here at the SHARE Foundation we remind ourselves to pause, to fully appreciate the living, breathing legacy of Archbishop Oscar Romero. We invite you to join us by planning an event or space to come together in solidarity with the Salvadoran people in celebration of Romero's life, his dedication to the poor and marginalized of El Salvador and the world, and his untiring denouncement of the structures of injustice and oppression. To offer ideas and materials for commemoration and reflection, we have created the Romero Week Packet, They Must Be Educated for Love; Romero's Legacy and the Right to Education. (click the link to download the packet)

On this 31st anniversary of Monseñor Romero's death, we have an opportunity to honor his legacy and recognize those that continue to walk in his footsteps. In honoring the incredible example of love and justice that he laid his life down for, we can celebrate Romero's life by raising awareness around one of the keys to creating sustainable development in El Salvador today: access to education. The Romero Week Packet includes information on Romero's legacy; the struggle to access quality education; examples of transformative education in El Salvador today, a sample spiritual service; quotes, prayers, reflections, discussion questions and ideas for action.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Sugar Cane Burning, Pesticide Use and Organizing in the Bajo Lempa Make the International News!

Dear SHARE Friends and Community,

As many of you know, years of chemical pesticides and sugar cane burning in the Bajo Lempa region of El Salvador have put the health and lives of thousands of families at risk.  Renal failure is a serious problem that has taken the lives of countless community leaders and friends and until very recently, this situation wasn't national news in El Salvador, despite community organizing against chemical pesticides and alarming rates of dialysis and death.  The Bajo Lempa is one of the areas most devastatingly affected by flooding on an almost yearly basis; a two-decades effort for prevention and mitigation projects has finally resulted in concrete actions on the part of the government, but the struggle continues.

Given this situation, we're excited to share with you all this great in-depth article on Al-Jazeera English about the situation in the Bajo Lempa.  While the article is focused on one of the many community-based organizations working for environmental protection, advocacy for public works, healthcare rights, education, and organic agriculture, it does a great talking about the general situation in an area where SHARE has worked for many, many years: with the Women's Cattle Cooperative and CRIPDES San Vicente.

Following is a short excerpt; please read Climate: Putting People Over Money for more!

A movement with teeth
Alonzo Sosa with the environmental unit of the Mayor's office of the Municipality of Tecoluca is part of the Movement for the Defence of Life and Natural Resources.

"We started this movement two and a half years ago because of the rampant health problems people in our communities were experiencing due to the unsafe farming practises of the industrial farmers, like the sugarcane producers," Sosa told Al Jazeera.

"The chemicals they use, contaminating our water, overuse of land and widespread kidney failure, this is all very serious. So now, we are pushing for better farming practises, trying to eliminate these chemicals and burning, because it damages our biodiversity."

According to Sosa, "It's not just environmental units in local governments that will solve this crisis. We need local governments, journalists, communities, everyone. The only requirement to join our movement is for you to care for the environment and our resources."

Needless to say, the larger producers of sugarcane in El Salvador have not met the movement's requests with open arms.

"The bigger producers are carrying out these atrocious practises, because they are only interested in their own capital and profit," Sosa added, "We are in a constant struggle with the cane operators who desire perpetual expansion."